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Hurricane protocol for coastal communities

By Elena Watts
June 17, 2014 at 1:17 a.m.

LaDonna Thigpen, coordinator for Calhoun County Emergency Management

The Victoria Advocate caught up with LaDonna Thigpen, coordinator for Calhoun County Emergency Management, to learn how residents should prepare for hurricane season. She responded via email:

How and when should residents begin preparing for a hurricane?

LaDonna Thigpen: Before a storm, you should prepare by having a disaster supply kit. These kits are not only for hurricanes but also are helpful during any emergency when you may be without utilities.

Hurricane season begins June 1, so preparations should be completed by then.

Calhoun County is an evacuating county, so we do not open shelters before a storm.

The emergency management office and the Red Cross have numerous brochures on preparation.

How does the emergency management office reach the residents?

LaDonna Thigpen: If an emergency is pending, we can notify citizens by our code red emergency notification system. Anyone that would like to receive emergency notifications can sign up either on the city of Port Lavaca website, portlavaca.org, or the Calhoun County website, calhouncotx.org.

If they have not registered to receive these emergency notifications, then they will not be notified.

The code red system allows users to select how they would like to receive their emergency notifications. They can receive voice, email and text messages of any alert that is generated.

How does emergency management handle cases involving people without means to evacuate?

LaDonna Thigpen: We ask that people without means of evacuating on their own go with a friend or relative.

If they still can't get a ride, we ask that they contact our office at 361-553-4400 to preregister if possible so we will be able to have enough buses to evacuate them.

Nursing homes and assisted living homes are private companies and have their own procedures during emergencies.

Where are residents instructed to go?

LaDonna Thigpen: We ask that people evacuating go inland and not evacuate to other coastal communities.

What if they have nowhere to go?

LaDonna Thigpen: The state will open shelters in the San Antonio area for people who have nowhere to evacuate.

When can residents return to their homes after a storm?

LaDonna Thigpen: If the county has sustained a lot of damage after a disaster, access to the county may be denied until the roadways and utility lines are cleared.

All emergency information should be available on the county website, calhouncotx.org, after a storm. Residents can also call the emergency management office at 361-553-4400.

If we lose all communications, we utilize our emergency radio station at FM 105.1 to share emergency information.

If the county has minimum damage, citizens will be able to re-enter the county. However, it can be days or weeks before hospitals, businesses and utility services may be available. So anyone re-entering the county needs to be self-sufficient until those services are available again.

How do residents rebuild when damage has occurred to their homes or property?

LaDonna Thigpen: They would need to contact their insurance agent. If they had no insurance, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) will have a call center or location that they would be able to get information.

Rebuilding permits would be required either through the city or county, depending on where their building is located.

They would need to contact these offices before construction. They should take pictures of their property and anything they have torn out due to damage for their insurance company.

And they should protect the building as best they can until an adjustor has been to their property.

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